MD caught up with legendary drummer/producer Stix Hooper as he was in session producing and playing with The Gerald Wilson Orchestra. As a founding member of ’60s/’70s soul-jazz kings The Crusaders, Hooper was responsible for such deep-groove hits as “Keep That Same Old Feeling” and “Street Life.”
The Crusaders changed personnel during the ’80s, but the original lineup (sans trombonist Wayne Henderson) returns with Rural Renewal (not to be confused with Tower Of Power’s classic Urban Renewal). Hooper, who now runs Mac Avenue Records, says the album is a return to The Crusaders’ roots.
“Joe [Sample, Crusader’s keyboardist and leader] pulled the band back together and wrote the songs,” Hooper explains. “We started out playing some grooves that were challenging, but eventually we realized that this record is about roots. That’s why we ended up calling it Rural Renewal. To use today’s vernacular, that aspect of music has been dissed. So we threw some curves into the music and we improvised, but we also took it back to the woods.”
Hooper’s drumming on Rural Renewal is as feisty as ever, equal parts sprightly jazz attitude and simmering, no-nonsense groove. His dance-like pulse is all about the feeling. “The blues music we heard coming up had so much emotion and feeling,” he says. “You focused on that more than if you could execute flams and paradiddles. If it didn’t feel good, you weren’t going to work.”